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Will ADHD Diagnosis Keep Son Out of Gifted Program?
Q: My ten-year-old son was screened for ADHD with the Conner's scale. He is also very bright, but the school will not let him take the Stanford Binet test until we finish the ADHD screening with our doctor. However, I would like to go to the doctor with the whole picture. I do not doubt that my son has attention problems, but his grades are consistent and never go down. His teacher says that he is one of the brightest children she has ever taught. He leaves the class for math and science because he is so far ahead, and he is not disruptive or talkative in those two classes. Should I insist that he be tested more before accepting a diagnosis of ADHD or should I let him be tested and then go for the IQ testing? Will a positive ADHD diagnosis hurt his entry into gifted programs?
A: It is quite possible for a child to be both ADHD and gifted. However, it is also quite possible for a gifted child to be fidgety, bored, and daydream and still not be ADHD. Those behaviors can occur in any gifted child from time to time. When diagnosing ADHD, it is essential that the problem behaviors occur in more than one setting (such as home and school), occur consistently over time, begin before the age of seven years, and have persisted for longer than six months. I do not fully understand why the ADHD evaluation must be completed before the IQ testing is done. In your son's case, he is not disruptive and will likely pay attention during the testing. Bright kids can focus very well in one-on-one interaction, which is how the Stanford Binet is administered. If the evaluation determines that he is inattentive, does that mean he can't enter the gifted program unless he receives medication? That is unfair because medication may not be warranted or effective in his case anyway. I recommend that you find out the full reason behind the test delay.
The Child Behavior Checklist by Connors is only one method of evaluating for ADHD. Is the school recommending any other evaluation tools? There is no medical test for ADHD. There is a TOVA test (test of variable abilities), but that is usually obtained through a neurologist or ADHD specialist. If your son receives the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children test -- that contains a freedom from distractibility score that would indicate any attention problems.
I suggest that you speak with your doctor and see what he or she recommends based on their medical opinion. Take this reply with you. If it is decided that your son needs ADHD treatment, then make that decision based on his total needs, not just on the gifted program. I do not think it is right to exclude your son from the program based on attention behaviors. The advanced program may end his inattentiveness! If it becomes necessary for you to push for your son to be tested so that his educational needs may be met, you may have to seek outside professional testing to learn the full range of his abilities. Good luck.
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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.